We propose a metric for estimating the quantity (ha) of usable space (suitable permanent cover) for wildlife on an area of interest with use-availability data. The metric and derivations from it provide information for better understanding the field behavior of wildlife, planning habitat management, and estimating population response to habitat management. We illustrate the metric with radiotelemetry (use) and Geographic Information System (GIS; availability) data on northern bobwhites (Colinus virginianus) from Texas and Arkansas, USA. In Texas, a 796-ha area provided 225 ± 1.8 ha SE of usable space (n = 9,288 radiolocations of 217 bobwhites), and we found an avoided cover type provided more usable space (i.e., was more important) than a selected type. During the breeding season of 2001 in Arkansas, a 5,560-ha area provided 1,461 ± 65.1 ha SE of usable space (n = 300 radiolocations of 16 bobwhites). A derivation from the metric provides a method for estimating the contribution of weakly selected, randomly used, and avoided cover types to population welfare in the sense of usable space. The derivation also reduces concern over arbitrary human classification of cover types because it provides quantitative information on the effects of those classifications.
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Vol. 69 • No. 2